Le Sueur News Herald:

Five Tri-City United High School students set a new precedent for their school’s Robotics program by competing at the U.S. State Opener in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Team Undecided, which consists of Maxwell Tillema, Riley Bogue, Cristian Mejia, Devin Filter and Colton Rozeboom, placed 45th out of 58 total teams. But despite their lower ranking, they feel accomplished for being the first TCU Robotics team to compete on the national level. Rozeboom graduates this spring, but the other four team members expect to outdo themselves next year.

“I think [Robotics] definitely met my expectations and went passed them,” said Bogue, a first-year robotics member. “Going to state and national [competitions] was an achievement. I’m definitely coming back the rest of my high school career.”

Tillema, who now has three years of robotics behind him, said this year marked the first season when he knew how to build and program the robot. In previous years, he watched and learned from older students. The experience of the competitions themselves also helped him understand what to do — and what not to do — on the playing field.

Team Undecided qualified for the U.S. Opener by winning the Skills Champion Trophy at a Windom regional contest in January. That same tournament, the team placed first out of 38 teams and earned a slot at the state competition in February.

At the state contest held in St. Cloud, Team Undecided made it to the eliminations round but fell short when matched against the number-one seeded team. The team made it to the elimination round again at the Council Bluffs contest, held April 4 through 6, but the team’s robot lost its battery on an attempt to shoot its cannon. (Launching balls at flags was one of several tasks robots needed to complete during matches.)

Tillema and Bogue agreed canceled practices brought on by inclement weather didn’t help their cause. They made up for canceled practices by driving their robot at a colleague’s home, but Tillema said the best preparation comes from driving the bot on arena surfaces, not tables and floors.

“Next year it’s going to be a giant improvement,” said Brogue, who mentioned lighter aluminum as one improvement to apply to the team’s robot next season.

Tillema said he wished the team had devoted more time to testing out the robot after making improvements to its design.

“Every competition highlighted different design flaws to fix,” said Tillema. “… A lot of the successful teams did things really fast [with their robots].”

Bogue agreed the other teams at the contests gave him exposure to building techniques he hadn’t previously considered. Technicalities aside, Team Undecided members agreed to improve their communication and organization for next year.

“It was a good season,” said TCU robotics co-advisor Luke Fleck. “They’re starting to get this far [competing at the U.S. Opener]. It’s exciting to see where they take this momentum in the future.”



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